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Long in public beta, the official release versions of Flex 3 and AIR (Adobe Integrated Runtime) were announced yesterday by Adobe.

These products are crucial planks in the Adobe Technology Platform, the foundation of Adobe's effort to spread the gospel of rich Internet applications (RIAs). An RIA is a web-based application that has "the features and functionality of traditional desktop applications" (thanks, Wikipedia). Flex is Adobe's primary development framework for creating RIAs, and with the release of version 3 (now open-source for the first time), the company hopes to continue to expand the user base for this popular software.

The Flex SDK (software development kit) is available for download for free, but most developers prefer to work in a more structured integrated development environment (IDE) which Adobe sells in the form of Flex Builder 3. This product comes in two flavors: Standard (selling for $249) and Professional, which adds interactive data visualization and testing tools ($699).

Here at Peachpit, we've been working feverishly to revise our best-selling book on Flex for version 3. Flex 3: Training from the Source, by Jeff Tapper, Michael Labriola, and Matthew Boles with James Talbot, will be published under the Adobe Press imprint. It goes to press Any Day Now and will be available later in March. If you can't wait until then, you can purchase access to a preview of the entire book through our Rough Cuts program. Within the next week, we'll also post a chapter or two from the finished book that you can read online or download for free. Stay tuned to this space for more information!

AIR (formerly codenamed "Apollo"), on the other hand, is not a development tool, but rather an environment for running Web applications directly on the desktop, without using a browser. Developers can build AIR apps upon standard Web technologies like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript (using Dreamweaver or any other Web-authoring tool), or they can incorporate Adobe's own technologies (including ActionScript) by buillding the app in Flash or Flex.

Peachpit has two books on AIR in the works: Adobe AIR (Adobe Integrated Runtime): Visual QuickPro Guide, by popular author Larry Ullman (publishing late April; available as a Rough Cut now), and Breaking out of the Browser with Adobe AIR, by two of the authors of the Flex book, Michael Labriola and Jeff Tapper (available in early summer).